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14 Worst Couponing Mistakes I Made As An Amateur Couponer

14 Worst Couponing Mistakes I Made As An Amateur Couponer

When you first start couponing, it’s easy to get worked up about saving money with coupons. When I take a walk down memory lane, I realize how addicted I was in my earliest days of couponing, watching my balance plummet at the checkout register and thinking how I was saving up every day.

It’s incredibly satisfying and thrilling to witness your coupon printing and clipping efforts make a huge difference in your bank account by the end of the month. While it’s completely normal to be moved by the savings you are gleaning, are you ensuring that you are using your money and time efficiently?

Here are some of the mistakes I made in my early days of couponing that you should avoid if you want to become a couponing master.

1. Buying useless items just because they were a good deal

Every time I head out to purchase something I know I wouldn’t use, I ask myself the following questions: “Do I want to store this item?” and “Do I want to pay sales tax on this item?”

If I answer No to even one of these, the item goes back on the shelf. The only exception is when the item can prove to be lucrative. If the monetary benefit that I would gain by purchasing the product pays for the sales tax, I ask myself if I can donate or gift this item. If I find myself nodding in the affirmative, the product pays for itself and then I usually give it away.

2. Thinking I had to get my hands on every deal

I taught myself a phrase, rather a mantra, that I like to chant every time I fail to visit a store to grab a hot deal: “You win some, you lose some.”

When it comes to scoring great deals and coupons, you’ll win most of the time. However, accepting that you might lag behind at other times helps you keep a good balance in your life!

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3. Failing to sufficiently stock up on items that I use a lot

I am quite dependent on cough drops and Kleenex in the winters. If I didn’t hoard these treasures at every chance I got, I would end up running out of them and purchasing them at a time when their prices are touching ridiculous heights.

Try to make a list of things you use a lot, or might use at a later time, and buy them beforehand when the right deal comes along. Saving for a rainy day always pays off in the long run.

4. Buying unhealthy items because they are moneymakers or free

I gained quite a few pounds in those first few years of recklessly dedicated couponing since all the unhealthy, expensive items that I would normally steer clear of were either moneymakers, free, or cheap. In my enthralling moment of realization that I could afford all the sodas, chips, candies, and cookies that I wanted, I went overboard without realizing how my dietary habits were worsening.

These days, every time I see an item that doesn’t seem healthy, I ask myself, “Is this worth my health?” If the answer is Yes, it ends up in my cart. However, it doesn’t mean that all deals can wreak havoc on your health. I still stock up on candies a month or two before Halloween when the deals are hot and save myself a fortune. To prevent the inevitable, I stash away the candies in my garage!

5. Having a disheveled coupon folder

It would surprise you to know the number of coupons that I have lost or couldn’t find when I needed them the most! After months of staying higgledy-piggledy, I found my own way of staying organized, which has saved me quite a bit of time and money.

Find a system that works for you, be it sorting out the coupons according to their genres, the stores they are applicable at, how soon you would need them, or putting the coupons that are for the same product together in your folder.

6. Not taking all your coupons to the store

Imagine you walk in to a store and find numerable items on clearance shelves that you remember having a coupon for at home. Had you brought your coupon book with you, you would have gotten those items at amazing deals — i.e. as moneymakers or for free.

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As I learned over time, never part with your coupon book whenever you head out. You never know what life might throw your way!

7. Clipping the coupon before getting the item in my cart

Everybody’s couponing system is different. Experience has taught me that clipping the coupons before even setting foot inside the store depletes much of your precious time. This is because oftentimes the deal isn’t as enticing once you see the product in person, the item is at the wrong price, or even worse, the store has run out of it. Save your coupon until checkout time.

8. Buying items that are priced highly or not on my list

I always make for the clearance racks as soon as I enter a store. However, once you are there, randomly pulling items off the shelves that look flashy, useful, or tasty add to your out-of-pocket money.

Now, I’ve learned to stick to my list, and if I suddenly remember something that I needed but forgot to add to my list, I grab the best deal for it there. It saves money and gas to remember what you need at the store when you are there, rather than going home and making a special trip back for it.

9. Being oblivious to the coupon policies of the stores you are shopping at

If a coupon fails to scan, most store clerks will tell you that it’s bad. However, if you have read up on their coupon policy and have it on your phone, you can show it to them and make them call a manager or put your coupon through anyway. This will prevent your hard-earned coupons from being discarded without reason.

10. Using my coupons on larger-sized products

As a rule of thumb, coupons are usually good for products of a certain minimum size and up.

Most money is saved by using coupons on the smallest size of the product that is valid for that coupon. When I want to buy a myriad of items, I buy more newspapers, trade coupons, or print each coupon multiple times.

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11. Not sending in your rebates

If you stumble across an item at a great price with a rebate and somehow forget to send it in, you are letting bucks slip out of your palms. This reminds me of an old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Until you have submitted the rebate, keep the item close at hand as a constant reminder. Financial laziness is potentially fatal (to your wallet)!

12. Not obeying coupon wordage

In the last decade, especially since the propagation of the show Extreme Couponing, a myriad of policies and restrictions have been imposed on coupons. Throngs of people want to mimic what they see on the show and aspire to do whatever it takes to save big. Some people have even resorted to putting their integrity and honesty on the line for a good deal. However, people like us know it isn’t worth it.

If a coupon is expired, it makes for my trashcan. If a coupon is valid for one per person, I make a habit of taking along a friend or someone else. If a coupon entails that some other item be purchased with it or excludes a certain size of the product, I comply with it.

The couponing industry has lost millions due to erroneous use of coupons, expired coupons, or fraudulent coupons. That said, oftentimes even seasoned couponers fail to read the fine print before sending in a coupon for scanning. It helps to read and re-read the fine print each time to preserve your integrity — “The big print giveth, the small print taketh away.”

13. Purchasing a branded product even if the generic is cheaper

Here is a situation you must be familiar with:

There is a close-out deal when you get to the spaghetti sauce. The generic brand you see is 30 cents cheaper for the same size of Ragu that you wanted to buy using your coupon.

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You may feel the urge to find the pertinent coupon, clip it, and wait as the cashier scans it. However, it is often prudent to restrain your inner coupon-voice of reason. Count your lucky stars that you found something even cheaper and toss it in your cart. Sometimes, you find generic or great last-chance deals that cost even less than the on sale brand name with coupons.

When you are pulling products off the shelves, conduct a quick comparison and pay close attention to weight, quantity, and size. While it’s OK to be loyal to brands, make sure it doesn’t cost you in the long run.

14. Being an inefficient couponer

When you start out with couponing, you might find yourself spending more time and money than needed. It takes time and effort to hone in on your couponing skills. It also costs time, gas, newspapers, and papers to coupon.

A few months into couponing, try to analyze how much money and time you are investing in couponing. Some extreme couponers live highly unbalanced lives, fretting over the next deals and couponing to the extremes. While couponing is highly addictive, just remember that if you aspire to be an efficient couponer, this practical skill can be continued while living a balanced lifestyle as well.

Featured photo credit: Daily Amercian via bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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